This is the new Nissan Micra, but it’s not the first time we’ve tested it. This is in fact our third exposure to Nissan’s new Micra: after testing a Thai-spec car in Thailand, and an almost-finished prototype on a test track in Japan, we’ve finally driven a UK car on UK roads.
The Micra’s no longer a UK-built car though – the more profitable Juke is now built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant (and the electric Leaf will soon be put together there as well). Instead, the Micra rolls out of plants in China, Mexico, India (which will supply Europe), and Thailand, the lower labour rates lowering Nissan the chance to make a profit in a class where the margins are notoriously tight.
What do I need to know about the new Nissan Micra?
Underneath the skin is Nissan’s new V-platform that will, along with a saloon and Note-replacing MPV, soon be built at a rate of one million units per year. It’s an impressive platform too, with clever weight reduction schemes leading to a 27% lighter exhaust, 19% lighter fuel tank and 15% lighter suspension.
So what’s good about the new Micra?
The same stuff we liked in our previous two encounters is present and correct. There’s great visibility all round, thanks to thin pillars and lots of glass, which means it’s a doddle to park and place. It’s pretty roomy too, with decent space up front, in the back, and in the boot.
And now it’s in European guise, we’ve had a chance to try some of the posher optional extras, like the little touch-screen Connect sat-nav that is ridiculously simple and straightforward to use. Usually we’d recommend you buy a portable sat-nav, but it’s only £400 and comes with Bluetooth connectivity too.
Whisper it, but the looks are growing on me too. No, really, they are.
But the cabin quality still isn’t good enough. There are too many sharp-edged joins and the plastics are shiny and bright. A Hyundai i10 has a better cabin ambience, a Ford Fiesta is much more exciting to look at, and the quality in a VW Polo is far, far ahead.
Despite the 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine receiving a Euro-specific compression ratio since we tried it in Thailand, it’s still rough, reluctant to rev and not particularly quick. There’s a supercharged version on the way – and thanks to direct injection and a stop/start system it offers more power and torque (97bhp and 105lb ft) but also improved fuel and emissions figures (95g/km and 68.9mpg) – but having tested an early version in Japan it’s not any freer revving or more fun.
As for the rest of the package on the road, the steering is light (great for parking, poor if you want some involvement), there’s too much body roll, and the gearbox is notchy.
The previous generation Nissan Micra always felt and looked rather special, even if it was never a class leader. The new Micra is nowhere near the top of its class, but has abandoned everything that made it unique amongst a sea of other superminis. It’s easy to drive, easy to park and easy to use, but easy to forget about too.
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